It's Akutagawa and Naoki Prize time in Japan again (yes, every six months ...), and they've announced that コンビニ人間 ('Convenience store people'), by Murata Sayaka has taken the (¥1 million) Akutagawa, and that 海の見える理髪店 ('A barber shop with a view of the sea') by Ogiwara Hiroshi gets the Naoki.
In The Japan Times report Daisuke Kikuchi appears to be playing the big-unknown surprise card a bit too heavy-handedly, at least in the headline -- Convenience store worker who moonlights as novelist wins prestigious Akutagawa Prize.
Murata may be an (occasional) convenience store worker, but for someone who 'moonlights as novelist' she's already racked up an impressive number of literary prizes over more than a decade -- indeed you can read her (well, if you subscribe ....) in Granta, and even if none of her books have been translated into English she already rates a J'Lit author page.
I do not believe that writing is an act of despair.
On the contrary, it lies beyond despair, when a portal opens onto the darkness that is mixed with shades of light.
In this darkness the ink lights up our souls and takes us to a place where we are both witness and agent, where witnessing broadens the horizons of the human situation -- defending man's right to live and dream, to rip the veil off taboos and to resist military and religious tyranny.
Well, we're definitely living in portal-needing times .....
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Scenes from the Theater of Copyright by Mark Rose, Authors in Court, recently published by Harvard University Press.
Sure, subject-matter that's of particular interest to me -- but this is a nice little find, beyond that, and certainly a book that's deserving of more attention than it's received to date.
They've announced the winners of this year's Singapore Literature Prize -- which is actually many prizes, since they admirably award them in three genres (fiction, non, and poetry), and each of those in four languages (English, Malay, Chinese, and Tamil).
The winners were selected from 235 entries across the twelve genre/language possibilities (alas, no exact breakdown on offer, as far as I can tell).
The English Fiction-award went to ... a graphic novel, The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew -- see the Pantheon publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
The Straits Timescoverage reports that: "it has sold about 9,000 copies in Singapore"; the prize-win will presumably improve those numbers.
Interesting, too, to see that an English translation was also among the English Fiction finalists -- the translation of Mohamed Latiff Mohamed's The Widower (which you may recall Tyler Cowen hailed as the great Singaporean novel last year) .....
This would seem to defeat the awards-in-original-languages set-up -- but what do I know ?
A fascinating German Association of Literary Translators' survey (covering 664 translation contracts) is summarized (in English) by Florian Faes at Slator; see also the original German (warning ! dreaded pdf format !)
It's mostly about rates, but lots of other odds and ends are covered -- most interestingly that 70 per cent of translators reported being female, and a mere 19 per cent male (the remainder weren't identified -- but even if they were all male, that still means more than two-thirds of the translations were by women).
(The takeaway, by the way: despite longterm efforts to establish reasonable remuneration, translators are still getting screwed.)
In The Atlantic Nathan Scott McMamara writes that American Literature Needs Indie Presses.
I'm not really convinced by his 'grandiosity'-concerns -- okay, lots of books are too expensive, but (page-)length hasn't ever seemed to be to be one of the major problems of the American publishing industry ... -- but, sure, it's great that there are some -- more and more ? -- nimble independents taking up the big-house slack (and, boy, is there a lot of slack ...).
Of course, I'm more interested in international fiction, rather than 'American Literature' -- and it's here the independents really seem to have established themselves and, in many respects, are now leading the way, as the majors limit themselves to far too much that is safe.
Leading Hungarian author Esterházy Péter -- one of the post-war greats -- has passed away; not much in-depth English reaction yet beyond the AP report, but it would be shocking if we didn't see considerably more extensive coverage.
A decent amount of his work has been translated into English, but not nearly enough (Esti, please !).
The Publishing Hungary author page is a bit out of date, missing the last few (still very productive) years, but gives you a basic overview.
Only three of his titles are under review at the complete review:
The NLNG-sponsored US$100,000 Nigeria Prize for Literature rotates through four genres, year for year, and this year they're back to focusing on prose -- and they've now announced the eleven longlisted titles for the 2016 prize -- which includes Night Dancer by 2012-winner Chika Unigwe.
The list certainly makes for a good sampler of recent Nigerian fiction.
(And I do like how they report on what to expect next in The Nation: "A shortlist of three is expected in September and a winner, if any, will be announced by the Advisory Board in October".
'If any' ? Sounds like they have their doubts about the longlist .....)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Lionel Shriver's new novel, The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047.
Certainly one of those fun-to-discuss novels -- with a lot of material that can be argued about.
In this week's New York Christian Lorentzen profiles Helen DeWitt, in Publishing Can Break Your Heart -- a variously disturbing and fascinating piece.
Her The Last Samurai was recently reissued by New Directions; see their publicity page, and get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk; I read it way back when but really should get back to it again (and post review-coverage ...).
French retailer Fnac has announced the 30-title strong longlist for its Prix du Roman Fnac (yeah, the official site is still dealing with 2015, last I checked ...); see, for example, the overview/list at Livres Hebdo -- a useful list of many of the most interesting books due out around the end of August, for the rentrée littéraire, with many familiar names.
Not many translated from the English -- a Stewart O'Nan, and ... Richard Adams' Watership Down ?
Apparently so; the publishers are a bit coy about this -- it looks like a simple repackaging of the old translation -- but they're selling it as a book: "qui a été publié 4 fois en France mais qui n’a jamais réellement été reconnu et lu à sa juste valeur".
Fifth time is the charm ?
The creative-writing-programme plague continues to spread, now also to Bulgaria, where Radio Bulgaria reports on the Valeri Petrov Creative Writing Academy -- home to the flying people.
Okay, the 'flying people' is a nice touch.
Beyond that, the 'Творческа академия "Валери Петров"' is your typical creative writing programme (with some recognizable names on the faculty), presumably for better and worse (you know which way my expectations tilt ...); see also more (Bulgarian) details here.
They've announced that this year's Premio Strega -- the major Italian literary prize -- goes to La scuola cattolica, by Edoardo Albinati, which got 143 of the 395 votes cast (the next highest total was 92, for L'uomo del futuro, by Eraldo Affinati); see also, for example, the Rizzoli publicity page.
Albinati is not entirely unknown in English: Hesperus brought out his Coming Back; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
They also awarded the Premio Strega Europeo -- for best European work translated into Italian (seriously ? restricted to European fiction ? what the hell ?), and they've announced that it goes to Annie Ernaux, for the Italian translation of her Les Années (which does not appear to be available in English yet ...).
It beat out novels by Mircea Cărtărescu and Ralf Rothmann, among others.
Publisher Glagoslav publishes an impressive variety of contemporary literature from Russia and the former Soviet Union, and at Russia Beyond the Headlines Alexandra Guzeva has a Q & A with managing director Maxim Hodak and editor Ksenia Papazova.
Good to hear that Gnedich -- which I just reviewed -- is among their most successful titles.
Via I'm pointed to For All the Gold in the World-author Massimo Carlotto recommending 'the best Italian Crime Fiction' at Five Books.
Admittedly, I would be slightly more ... convinced if they weren't all published by Edizioni e/o (the Italian/original Europa Editions, as it were) -- who happen to be his publishers .....
Still, certainly of some interest.
'Read African Books' is not just good advice but also the name of a new site established by, and complementing, the invaluable African Books Collective.
Looks like a promising idea, and hopefully it can help generate more interest in what's available from the continent (because a lot is, and too few readers realize that ...).
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Maria Rybakova's novel in verse, Gnedich, recently published by Glagoslav in an English translation by Elena Dimov.
I'm a sucker for novels in verse -- and this is a good one; not much English-language notice yet (despite author Rybakova's longtime US residency ...), but the original Russian version was reviewed in the TLS a couple of years ago .....